The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso di Montepulciano

A powerhouse blend that’s under $20!

rossosmallI’m not often surprised by wines, but a recent bottle of Villa Sant’Anna 2012 Rosso di Montepulciano surprised me in more ways than one. First, this bottle is a great value. Second, tt shows unique grace and a symphony of flavors; together, these traits pushed my thinking about what to pair the wine with–it felt as if I had endless options. At about $20 dollars, this bottle seemed perfect to transform a scant late-night pasta with red sauce into a feast fit for royalty.

My first experience with this wine began after Aspen Mountain had a surprise flash opening last weekend. I was more than excited to make some pasta sauce in my slow cooker while making my first turns of the ski season. After a day of skiing and alpine bliss, I was ready to enjoy my pasta and this wine. I found that this bottle added so much complexity to my seemingly simple sauce. The wine tasted great before dinner with a few olives, and it turned my pasta with sauce from simply eating to dining. 

This Rosso di Montepulciano is not to be confused with Rosso di Montalcino; rather than a mono-varietal Sangiovese Grosso like the latter, this Rosso di Montepulciano is a melange of indigenous Tuscan grapes and some  Bordeaux varietals. This blend offers a mosaic of dark cherries with a subtle underbrush on the lively, palate-cleaning finish. It’s great as an wine to begin served with  focaccia with or with a fresh pasta and a hearty tomato sauce with dried herbs.

Don’t just take my word for what this powerhouse of a wine can do; grab a bottle and experience it with dinner!

Go-To-Wine Tuesday, Il Conventino Rosato 2013

A delicious organic under $20 Sangiovese rosé that loves your food

ROS19-2Growing up in the Midwest between corn and soybean fields, I have seen first hand the pesticides farmers spray on their crops. I remember playing outside and being rushed inside while the loud little crop dusting plane flies overhead. These memories are in party why I choose to eat organic foods as much as possible. And when I come across an organic wine that I love, I’ll tend to keep a few on hand.

This summer I’ll be keeping more than a few of the Il Conventino 2013 Rosato in my wine refrigerator. I have visions of returning from the Aspen Farmers Market with loads of red peppers to roast, sweet corn, Colorado peaches, and local cheese, all of which will pair extremely well with this food–friendly wine. This wine is delicious with opulent notes of strawberries, and red fruits, a hint of earthy minerality.

The Il Conventino Winery was among the first in the area to farm organically. They use pruning techniques to create a microclimate, grasses to stimulate nutrient competition and reduce insects, and choose their harvest exceedingly carefully. All these techniques create a fantastic grape that is reminiscent of the wild terroir. The grapes sit on their skins for two days before the juice is fermented in stainless steel for six months. The 2013 Il Conventino Rosato is made with 100% Sangiovese grapes grown in Toscana between Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia, and the estate makes just 300 cases of this Rosato a year. Best of all, the under $20 price point will make the decision to stock your wine fridge for patio parties an easy one.

Go-to-Wine Tuesday: Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013

Fresh, fleshy and under $20 Vermentino from Antinori

WH1916-2After a long winter, it’s nice to glimpse the summer to come. The weather has been unusually hot this week, and wanting to take advantage of the warm evening, last night I opened a bottle of Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013.

Common wine knowledge says that Vermentino traditionally grows in Liguria and Toscana, but recent DNA has confirmed that Vermentino is identical to the Pigato grape of Liguria and the Favorita of Piedmont. However, winemakers don’t need DNA test to confirm what they already know: Vermentino makes a great wine for warm weather drinking. Its loads of minerality, citrus tones and refreshing acidity make it a natural for summertime sipping.

The bottle of Vermentino I enjoyed last night comes from the makers of the famed Super-Tuscan Tignanello, among others. Winemakers since 1385, the Antinori family is now in its 26th generation of making wine that shows their respect for tradition and for the land. Guado al Tasso, located near Bolgheri in the upper Maremma coastline, made its first vintage of Vermentino in 1996. One thing you can say about the Antinori family is that they have never rested easy on their past successes.

Vermentino seems to thrive under the hot Tuscan sun but the cool Mediterranean breezes allow it to retain its acidic kick, crispy floral aromatics and elegance. Guado al Tasso estate harvests the grapes different plots at different ripening stages, and then ferments the lots separately in temperature-controlled tanks. This process allows the different aromas and flavors of the single-vineyard parcels to shine through. After a month of fermentation, the single-parcel wines are tasted and Guado al Tasso makes a selection for the final blend.

Perfect for the balmy weather of last night, this ’13 Vermentino is bright with a gentle yet pronounced minerality that gives way to soft citrus, orchard fruit, and floral tones. As you drink it, this wine nips at the palate with a pleasing acidity that lingers on the finish, but its round, almost fleshy mouth-feel balances out this acidity nicely. It’s hard to go wrong with any Antinori wine, but this Vermentino, under $20, is a glass that brims with summertime win.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Sandro Fay 2012 Rosso di Valtellina Tei

Delicious northern under $20 Nebbiolo Rosso that tastes like spring

RD8897-2Birds went from squawking to chirping, wind went from blowing to breezing, the sun went from dull to radiant, and flavor is turning from sustenance to seasonal. Springtime is a back and forth of polar opposite weather, and I believe that this season requires some kind of hybrid flavor that pairs with the weather and with the cornucopia of food that will soon be on our tables, and I think I’ve found the right wine for the season—the Sandro Fay 2012 Rosso di Valtellina Tei, a Nebbiolo blend.

Although most people associate Nebbiolo with Barolo or Barbaresco, those aren’t the only Nebbiolo wines. I have been enjoying tasting many different types of Nebbiolo that don’t fit the Barolo paradigm, and whenever I select a un-Barolo Nebbiolo, I find the wine gives me feelings of liberty and freedom, as is the case with this Rosso di Valtellina Tei, a very unique and interesting wine. Heralding from northern Lombardia, nestled right up against Switzerland, the capricious Nebbiolo, or Chiavennasca as it’s called in this region, enjoys the rocky, steep, terraced slopes that benefit from the warm, direct southern sun. While Piemonte’s Nebbiolo is characterized by weight and power, the Lombardian Nebbiolo identifies with in a coy complexity that dances gracefully on the palate while defining its spectrum of flavor.

This northern ’12 Nebbiolo from Sandro Fay offers a fruit-forward profile backed by a vibrant hibiscus-like acidity and a light minerality. Presenting a core of ripe strawberry and blackberry fruit touched with notes reminiscent of a hay-filled cedar barn, this wine’s palate is less concentrated than the Piemontese Nebbiolo style. Light aromas of macerated blackberries and rain-soaked cedar reflect the round, woody tannins, and the slight but complementary notes of pastoral funk make it a perfect pairing for soft spring cheeses, like Gorgonzola spread on a crusty hard bread. This wine is light on the palate with a tea-like texture, and it pairs perfectly with the beautiful season to come–and priced at under $20, it’s as easy on the wallet as it is on the palate. Like all things spring, it tastes best outside.

Go-To-Wine Tuesday: Fantinel Brut Rosé NV

Crisp, dry, bright and fresh, this under $20 spumante will surprise you!

SPK71-2Growing up in Italy, I learned there are a number of wine experiences that are just part of daily life. Having an aperitivo before dinner with a good Prosecco, sipping a good wine that complements the dishes at dinner, and celebrating a special occasion with a nice spumante. It’s just the way of things there—it’s part of the culture. In my 25 years of living La Dolce Vita, I thought I had tried most of the good spumante the market had to offer. I was incorrect.

Fantinel Brut Rosé is one of those eye-opening sparklers. I tried this under $20 bottle recently at one of our Saturday tastings and decided to bring a bottle home to share with my wife. After all, any reason is a good reason to celebrate life with a good wine. As I expected, my wife showed the same wide-eyed surprised look on her face as I did when I first tried it. This Brut Rosé has an unusual shade of pink, and when you look at it, you don’t expect it to be both bright and dry. Hints of berries follow the initial burst of freshness and acidity, and its rich, crisp finish makes it suitable for pairing with many different dishes.

This wine has been regularly stocked in our fridge ever since I shared that first bottle with my wife—chilled and ready to pop open at any time, and for any occasion. If you haven’t tried this gem from Friuli yet, you owe it to yourself do so at your earliest. It’s a true go-to bottle that is sure to impress, and possibly even surprise.

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